Witness: Drug War Spraying Colombia To Death 

Witness: Drug War Spraying Colombia To Death 
Posted by FoM on March 07, 2002 at 07:50:23 PT
By Lois Carol Wheatley, The Herald-Sun
Source: Herald-Sun
Jena Matzen has a carousel of slides from her trip to Colombia, and she’s giving slide shows throughout the Triangle. These are not your standard shots of smiling couples standing in front of national landmarks. One image shows a farmer at the center of his 12-acre field, a former corn crop now utterly decimated. Another shows a white flag raised over a black pepper crop, as a signal to airplanes that this is a legal crop. 
According to Matzen, a Hillsborough resident, the white flag did not have the desired effect; the pepper crop was destroyed nevertheless, by planes dropping enormous quantities of an herbicide called glyphosate -- marketed by Monsanto in this country under the brand name Round-Up -- as part of the U.S. war on drugs. Another slide shows a mural painted by elementary school children, depicting scenes before and after American airplanes spread poison across Colombia’s commercial and subsistence crops. The "before" portion of the mural is a lush landscape with animals and green trees, and the "after" is a barren desert with animal bones scattered around. Between the two contrasting panels is a squadron of dark, menacing airplanes. Matzen said our country’s devastation of Colombia’s agrarian economy is costing taxpayers quite a bit of money. "We now send over $1.3 billion, which makes Colombia the third largest recipient of military aid behind Israel and Egypt," she said. "It’s been labeled anti-narcotics money, so most of it goes to the military to help support their efforts in drug eradication. And the centerpiece of this policy is this aerial spraying." Matzen went to Colombia as part of a delegation from Witness for Peace, a nonprofit human rights group founded in the 1980s to address Central American policy issues. Invitations to visit Colombia had been extended for a number of years, and Witness for Peace resisted because of the widespread violence in Central America. "Finally, when the U.S. had ratcheted it up to the degree it had, they started sending delegations in 2001," Matzen said. She was part of the fourth delegation sent, on the heels of two citizen delegations and one congressional delegation. There were 35 in Matzen’s delegation, eight from North Carolina and four from the Triangle, who joined forces with labor organizers and environmentalists from 15 other states. In January they spent a total of 10 days traveling to Bogotá and then splitting into two smaller groups to visit Putumayo and Barancabermeja. Matzen’s group focused on agricultural issues and visited Putumayo, where it got a crash course in foreign policy. Of the $1.3 billion of U.S. aid to Colombia, a small portion is designated to go to "alternative development projects" -- in other words, to help small farmers make the switch to legal crops. The Colombian government started in December 2000 asking farmers to sign manual eradication agreements, social pacts to pull up their own coca or poppy crops by hand and plant something else. Many farmers complied. In exchange, they were promised some financial assistance, Matzen said, "equivalent to less than a thousand U.S. dollars." These are, for the most part, small farmers with less than six acres of land, who can make about $10,000 a year growing coca. The farmer with the decimated corn crop and the fellow with the white flag waving over the black pepper had signed the pacts, ripped up their own fields, invested substantial sums of money to plant new crops, and hadn’t seen a cent of the promised subsidy. "Their subsistence crops got sprayed along with their marketable crops, so they’re going hungry," she said. "Many people are internally displaced, not just from the fumigation but from the violence in general. Colombia has the highest level of internal displacement in the Western Hemisphere. Out of a population of 30 million, there are 2 million internal refugees." Some move to the cities, and many who signed the pacts and were fumigated anyway have gone into virgin rain forest areas to cut down large swaths of forest lands and go back to raising illegal crops. Thousands of farming families have had no choice but to abandon land they have occupied for decades, she said, because after the land has been sprayed, it can’t be used for anything for anywhere from 30 to 120 days. Pasture lands are wiped out so that livestock dies, and people also are sprayed. "As soon as they started the spraying, thousands of complaints started coming in," Matzen said, "nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and skin conditions." The Colombian government insists it has very sophisticated electronic equipment that pinpoints the exact locations of illegal crops to be eradicated. Farmers refute that claim, particularly those whose legal crops have been sprayed. In fact, when U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone from Minnesota visited Putumayo last fall, even he was sprayed. The fumigation missions are nothing new, Matzen said; they’ve been going on for years, only recently reaching such a fevered pitch. Also for years, the United States has found other ways of negatively impacting Colombia’s fragile economy. The United States has flooded the world market with cheap corn, making it impossible for this once-popular crop to be grown profitably in Colombia, Matzen said. Witness for Peace set up an itinerary for the delegation that included visits with U.S. drug policy experts, military and church leaders, human rights agencies, indigenous groups, academics and economists. Interpreters were provided, though Matzen speaks Spanish fluently. "The number one issue was our security and number two was our emotional well-being, because it’s a very stressful place," she said. "It’s a war zone. I couldn’t take pictures of a lot of things because of our security protocol." Their plane arrived at an airport also used as a military base where the crop-dusting planes are filled with hazardous chemicals. "So as we landed, immediately in the air above us there were six huge helicopters swirling around. And then the fumigation planes came around and kind of squirted out a bit of chemicals. It was quite impressive to see that." Traveling by bus, the delegation was often stopped at checkpoints. "There were roadblocks and men with guns who got on the bus and checked us out," Matzen said. "One time we had to get off the bus. It was definitely scary -- it felt very oppressive, and I just cannot imagine what it’s like to live there." While her segment of the delegation visited with agricultural workers, the other half traveled to scheduled stops with trade unionists. The issues of the two segments of the delegation are linked: there is widespread concern that most of the U.S. aid is going to the Colombian army, which has repeatedly been linked to brutal paramilitary groups and accused of serious human rights violations. The other group encountered roadblocks and armed guards along its route as well. "Human rights in general is very dangerous, local rights, environmental rights, indigenous rights -- you work on any of those issues, your life is in danger," she said. "Many people are working under death threats, people dying because of advocacy work they’ve done." Matzen and others from the delegation are on a personal crusade to raise America’s consciousness about the spraying and thereby get it stopped -- thus the slide shows. And this is certainly not her first human rights campaign. She is an attorney and for the last two years has been chairwoman of the Orange County Human Relations Commission, a volunteer board that advises the Board of County Commissioners and the Department of Human Rights and Relations. "I wanted to participate in this delegation because I am concerned about how Congress has chosen to spend more than a billion of our tax dollars on a military intervention that will not solve our domestic drug problem, but will likely escalate a very complicated, decades-old armed conflict while it destroys fragile ecological systems and does precious little to improve the lives of the many Colombians who live in poverty," Matzen said. Her trip expenses were funded by the Florida-based Institute for Regional Conservation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to biodiversity and to the prevention of regional extinctions of rare plants, animals and natural communities. Matzen is available to church and social action groups interested in seeing the slides and hearing her recap of the Witness for Peace delegation to Colombia. Visit the Witness for Peace Web Site at: http://www.witnessforpeace.orgSource: Herald-Sun, The (NC)Author: Lois Carol Wheatley, The Herald-SunPublished: March 6, 2002 Copyright: 2002 The Herald-SunContact: letters herald-sun.comWebsite: http://www.herald-sun.comRelated Articles & Web Site:Colombia Drug War News Activist Speaks Against U.S. Policy in Colombia Stance on Colombia Aid Shifts Colombia: This Will Be Worse Than Vietnam
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #7 posted by kaptinemo on March 08, 2002 at 08:11:22 PT:
How often does truth have to be told
before it is recognized as such?We've been warning about the against-all-treaties de facto chemical warfare going on down there for years. As if the 'herbicide' (such an innocuous sounding name for what they called Agent Orange in Viet Nam: a defoliant) had been specifically targetted to attack only drug crops. As if you could perform the 21st Century equivalent of 'daylight precision bombing' of spraying coca and poppy fields immediately adjacent to food crops with pinpoint accuracy, with no threat of 'collateral damage'. When I was in the Chemical Corps, we had a built in 'fudge factor' of 20% overlap of any affected area figured into each report. Even if the target was experiencing 'ideal' conditions (temperature inversions over the target, and no wind) we still figured on the area around the target to be affected out to a radius of 10km. That's 6.2 miles around the Ground Zero, folks. What makes those jerks planning this think that they can do better than the US Army?Who are these people? Where do they come from? Did they get the latest batch of policy wonks from Crownsville (my State's facility for the criminally insane)?
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by Dankhank on March 08, 2002 at 06:45:08 PT:
New Song?
Well Come on all you big strong men Uncle Sam needs your help again.He's got hiself in a terrible jam.Way down yonder in Cocaineland.So put down your books and pick up a gun, 'cause were gonna have a whole lot of fun!And it's one, two, three what are we fighting for?Don't ask me I don't give a damn, next stop is Cocaineland.and it's five, six, seven open up the pearly gates.Weeeeel, there ain't no time to wonder why, Whoopee! We're all gonna die .....-----apologies to Country Joe, and Ddc------- :-)
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by DdC on March 07, 2002 at 23:21:49 PT
Why Does the World Hate Our Meddling
Watching O'Really weasel and lie and spin reality clear off the table. Or any of Fauxnews, CNN Time AOL Warner GE Disney or the big Group W, Westinghouse not Bushit. Wingnut murders and Enron debates, wishing for another OJ or Klintoon bj. How right we are and how wrong they be, who ever that is changes weekly. Its who ever we need to exploit usually. Sometimes like Panama the Gulf or Grenada, its personal profits. Now back to Nam like it never happened, calling it Colombia stopping drugs with poisons. Protecting oil the companies can't afford hiring killer paramilitary assassins of the same government. Truth won't be found on Robertson news, or the local yocal broadcast owned by the same korpses. liberal bias? Liberal as in Liberally Fascist Conserving compassion, trading kids lives for crude oil so yuppies can cruz to the mailbox in 4 wheel drive. Safer than the environmentalist 4 cylinder or hybred. The Patriots driving for Independence of OPEC and Colombian wars. Not the Greedy self centered boomers jerking Iraqi crude plastic Chinese sweatshop made symbols singing marches blaring propaganda to perpetuate this madness. Here are some that tell it as they actually see it. Not mimicked memo's from talking heads.
Peace, Love and Liberty
DdChttp://www.americas.orgWitness For Peace http://www.colombiareport.orgUS: Colombia: The Politics Of Escalation - Freedom 1/13/00 1:52:26 PM
US: Colombia: The Politics Of Escalation Part II - Freedom 1/13/00 1:54:50 PM
Footnotes. - Freedom 1/13/00 1:56:48 PM
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by DdC on March 07, 2002 at 22:57:53 PT
Colombia Needs a Better Immigration Policy...
To help keep these war profiteers out!!!2B Free of drugs they don't sell, that is, when we should be Free of drugs that poison babies and unborns and farmworkers in the cotton fields or bible belt with, thumpin bible TVangelist Attorney Generalist bombing medcan clinics spraying heathen nonpsychoactive ditchweed while the runoff does worse than any ganja. Monsanto profits, Dyncorps Sirkorsky all backed by the Union labels. As the Artic soon to be a refuge dump like Exxons Valdeze or Horowitz clearcutting ancient trees, unnecesarily if hemp was used. The right to bare jobs treating illness they create caging citizens with bogus crimes. Profits on war, what ever its called, where ever its played. In giant arena's or hot humid rice patties. GOPercrats forcing crude oil gas to polyfiber stretch pants on DARE moms to wear on Jerry Springer. Driving SUV's between the pitstops at Dairy Queen or Mickey D, painting GAS PIG on the doors might be a solution. So many alternatives to this ridiculous OPEC dysfunction. Mex's Fox's gaurding Cocaine Cola Bushit chicken coups, now up through the Military pipeline, as McCaffrey's old one out of Nam with the Opium Express. Bush CIA Drug Cartels called Pharmacies mixed not shaken with Booze and Bacci killing more than Nagisaki, undisclosed drug additions to make the cigarette smoke pretty and the taste sweet and chemicals to keep from gaging on the toxin secret weapons of mass destruction. Now the steel welfare wants more when hemp fiber built a car for Ford. Aluminum waste turned into toothpaste or each pound of meat using 12 pounds of chemical grain, 70% of the agriculture while lobbying to outlaw hemp seed nutrition, the drug warlords with badges needing snitches. Releasing drunks to bust sick patients, holding onto scientific knowledge spuing Bushit to the public, perpetuating this war on sanity. Now to profit more Cartels and Paramilitary assassins, feeding both sides of a civil war to profit a few New Weird Odor Korpses, deje vu once more. No bystanders!
Peace, Love and Liberty
DdCWell Come on all you big strong men Uncle sam needs your help again Hes got hiself in a terrible jam Way down yonder in Bogata So put down your books and pick up your guns cause were gonna have a whole lot of funAnd its one two three what are we fighting for, dont ask me I dont give a damn next stop’s the Colombian’s and its five six seven open up the pearly gates well there aint no time to wonder why whoopie were all going to dieCome on drug czar’s let's move fast Your big chance has come at last Gotta get out and kill them peasants 'Cause the only good poor farmer is one that's dead The only way that peace'll be won Is when we blow 'em all to kingdom comeAnd its one two three what are we fighting for, dont ask me I dont give a damn next stop is Colombia and its five six seven open up the pearly gates well there aint no time to wonder why whoopie were all going to dieNow come on Wall Street don't be slow This war is a go go go Lots of money to be made Supplying the army with glyphosate Just be sure when you drop the bombs That you don't drop it on the District of ColombiaAnd its one two three what are we fighting for, dont ask me I dont give a damn next stop is South America and its five six seven open up the pearly gates well there aint no time to wonder why whoopie were all going to dieCome on mothers throughout the land Pack your boys off to Amazonland Come on fathers don't hesitate Get 'em there before it's too late You can be the first one on your block To have your kid come home in a boxAnd its one two three what are we fighting for, dont ask me I dont give a damn next stop is Colombia and its five six seven open up the pearly gates well there aint no time to wonder why whoopie were all going to die
Fixing To Die in Colombia Rag
Country Joe and the FishThe Real Reason for US Aid to Colombia
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by FoM on March 07, 2002 at 12:30:10 PT
As I've gotten older I can barely handle being around any chemicals. It's like I'm toxic from years of exposure to heaven knows what. I use to use straight DMSO on my horses legs if they were swollen. No warnings. No gloves. It was ok back then, then they found out it's really not good to be exposed too. That's what happening in Colombia. My husband unloaded Agent Orange from trucks in Vietnam that were improperly sealed , leaking 55 gallon drums and we know the damage that is happening to Vietnam Vets from that chemical and they worry about marijuana and it's POSSIBLE toxicity! Just a rant. I'm back to normal now.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by Doc-Hawk on March 07, 2002 at 12:20:07 PT:
Not ordinary Round-Up
The article says they are using "an herbicide called glyphosate -- marketed by Monsanto in this country under the brand name Round-Up."The Round-Up used in Colombia contains an additive to make it drift less and stick better. "The additive is used to make the glyphosate less likely to drift in the wind as it floats down from the planes, and to make it adhere better to the drug crops. Cosmo Flux uses a substance called Atplus 300F, sold by the British company Imperial Chemical Industries." says one article. Another article that might be helpful understanding this is: .ICI now says that they no longer supply the additive, but you can bet Monsanto has "adjusted" their formula with something even better.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by greenfox on March 07, 2002 at 08:28:36 PT
Kill `em all!
Why do we need trees? Or animals, for that matter? We don't need any of these- we simply need a drug-free life. Yay for that, and yippie kie yay.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment